A cerebral aneurysm or brain aneurysm is a vascular disease. It is characterized by a sac-like widening of either of the two of the carotid arteries that supply blood to the head and neck. It is more common in people with congenital defects where the wall of the cerebral artery or vein is weak. This can result in the dilation or ballooning of the blood vessel. The most common location of cerebral aneurysm is in the ring of arteries at the base of the brain, known as the Circle of Willis. The most affected blood vessels are the internal carotid artery and its major branches that supply blood to the anterior and middle sections of the brain.
While a genetic predisposition is considered to be the main cause, cerebral aneurysm can also occur due pre-existing hypertension, atherosclerosis (the accumulation of fatty deposits in blood vessels), or head injury. Smoking and drug abuse of cocaine are other causes of cerebral aneurysm. It is also suggested that oral contraceptives may also be one of the causes.
Aneurysms are classified according to their size and shape. Sizes may range from small (less than 15mm diameter) to super giant (over 50mm). Berry aneurysms are sac-like with a stem and Fusiform aneurysms are those that are spindle-shaped. While a small and unchanging cerebral aneurysm may produce no symptoms, larger aneurysms can produce significant symptoms and can lead to rupture at stage one. In certain cases, even large aneurysms can be asymptomatic.
Before an aneurysm ruptures, it may produce symptoms or come without warning. The onset usually hits out of the blue.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Extremely severe headache.
- Vision impairment.
The risk of a large aneurysm rupturing depends upon its size - the larger the size, the higher the risk. Rupturing of a cerebral aneurysm is a serious affair and can lead to complicated problems. The first outcome is bleeding in the meninges (membranes that envelop the brain and the spinal cord) or the brain itself. Both lead to hemorrhage below the middle meninges or intracranial swellings that are filled with blood. These are harbingers of a stroke. A ruptured aneurysm may also lead to excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluids, spasms, or contraction of blood vessels, and may cause further aneurysms. The risk of re-rupture is higher in the short term. The risk probability reduces to 1.3%, as in other cases only after six months.
Even if the aneurysm does not burst, it can affect the overall brain health . The swelling of blood vessels in the brain applies pressure on the neighboring areas of the brain. Depending on the location, the pressure may cause disturbances in behavior, mental focus and cognition. Use of herbs and vitamins that promote mental focus can help to a great extent in managing these symptoms but the best course is to take preventive measure by maintaining a healthy medical profile. Keep your blood pressure in control, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, avoid smoking, and keep a watch on build up of fatty deposits in blood vessels. They can be extremely helpful in avoiding a dreaded condition that may become unmanageable if the aneurysm ruptures.